Study: Black Teens Face Racial Discrimination Multiple Times Daily
Rutgers researcher says teens experience daily anti-black microaggressions.
A recent study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology looked at how often Black teens experienced racial discrimination on a daily basis. The teens involved in the two-week study experienced over five incidences of discrimination each day — mainly online.
Researchers surveyed 101 Black youth between the ages of 13 and 17 from predominantly Black neighborhoods in Washington D.C., every day for two weeks measuring their individual experiences with racial discrimination and changes in their depressive symptoms during that period. At the end of the study, 5,606 experiences were reported averaging 5.21 incidents per teen each day.
The study examined the frequency and psychological impacts of daily racial discrimination through subclasses of experience: individual, vicarious, online, offline and teasing. While online experiences were the most common, the study showed that daily racial discrimination is a predictor of “short-term increases in depressive symptoms” among black teens.
In a press release, Devin English, the lead author and assistant professor at Rutgers School of Public Health said, “This research reflects what researchers and activists have asserted for years: Black adolescents are forced to face anti-Black microaggressions on a daily basis. Importantly, this study expands the research on the many ways that discrimination happens, whether it is being teased by peers, asked to speak for their racial group in class, or seeing a racist post on social media.”
This adds to a growing body of evidence that shows persistent racial discrimination towards minority teens can contribute to mental health issues (anxiety, depression, trauma), increases in substance abuse, decreased academic achievement, and an increase in health problems.
“Racial discrimination prevention should be a public health imperative”
The study showed short-term increases in depressive symptoms were directly related to the experiences reported. Which ranged from being ridiculed about physical appearance to overt discrimination. Being teased about “wearing their hair natural, seeing jokes about their race online, and witnessing a family member being treated poorly due to their race or ethnicity” were some of the examples of discrimination included in the research.
“Racial teasing is important because it is one of the most common ways adolescents communicate about race,” English noted in the press release. “Critically, young people and adults, such as teachers, often see this teasing as harmless and choose not to address it. Our results, however, show several types of racial teasing are harmful for black adolescents.”
It was concluded that the internet is a major source of discriminatory behavior directed toward Black youth, as they spend more time online than kids of other races and ethnicities. The internet has also been found as a source of frequent discrimination because of the anonymity and lack of consequences. Results also show that teasing about things such as hair and skin tone are happening at a similar rate to more general forms of discrimination.
“Although public discourse can indirectly or directly blame health inequities on Black youth, our study provides evidence that racial discrimination in society is a fundamental cause of these health inequities,” English continued. “Knowing this, people in positions of power such as clinicians, school administrators, and policymakers have a responsibility to consider discrimination as a critical aspect of the daily experience and health of Black teens. Racial discrimination prevention should be a public health imperative.”
Impacting the Black Community
People victimized by violent hate crimes are more likely to experience more psychological distress than victims of other violent crimes. Victims of crimes that are bias-motivated are more likely to experience post-traumatic stress, safety concerns, depression, anxiety and anger than victims of crimes that are not motivated by bias.
Hate crimes have historically impacted the Black community more than other groups, both physically and mentally. But since 2016, the rise in hate crimes against the Black community underscores how deeply ingrained anti-Black culture is today.
According to the FBI’s hate crime statistics, there were 5,060 “victims of race/ethnicity/ancestry motivated hate crimes” in 2017. Of those, 48.6% were victims of crimes motivated by their offenders’ anti-Black bias. In 2018, of the 5,155 victims of hate crimes 47.1% were victims of anti-Black bias.
The persistent levels of anti-Black hate crimes in America underscore the psychological and physiological impacts on Black teens. In 2006, an article by the quarterly Journal of Child and Family Studies “showed that racial socialization experiences add significantly more predictability of depression symptoms over and above gender, neighborhood risk, and resources.”
The American Psychological Association also found that race-related stress was a significantly more powerful risk factor than stressful life events for psychological distress among the Black population in America. Hate crimes send a message to entire groups that they are not welcome and are unsafe in the community. They victimize and decrease feelings of safety and security. Even witnessing discrimination can lead to psychological and physiological distress.
Americans must be aware of the language they use and how it impacts minority groups in America today. The anti-Black culture that has become so pervasive and entrenched in our society must be addressed as its impact is a detriment to society as a whole.
Discrimination prevents specific groups of people from contributing to society limiting its success and development. If entire communities of people cannot enjoy the same privileges as the rest, educational and employment opportunities will continue to fall short limiting their ability to contribute through essential sectors such as medicine, economics, science, or technology; to the overall socio-economic well-being of their country,
Limiting specific groups’ ability to contribute to American culture, leaves others unable to appreciate and understand commonalities between them. This leads to social stagnation and a continuation of racism through future generations. If American society continues to turn a blind eye to racism allowing it to continue to thrive, it will continue to lead to aggression and violence on a local and national scale.
People who experience racism in their everyday life experience many limitations. Fear can become an everyday occurrence leading to depressive symptoms. When teens face racial or ethnic harassment and persecution daily throughout their lives they begin to view themselves as less worthy than they are and this only serves to perpetuate the cycle of oppression.
Those who place less value on themselves rarely strive to attain more. This can lead to whole generations of families to become trapped in disadvantaged situations. It is also common for individuals who consistently deal with racism to become aggressive and resentful, turning to criminal behavior to fight back against the injustice of it all, thus perpetuating the cycle.